Six weeks into a woman’s pregnancy is the point at which doctors typically can detect the flicker of a fetal heartbeat on an ultrasound. It’s also the point after which Iowa lawmakers now intend to outlaw abortions.
The Iowa Legislature approved what would be the nation’s strictest abortion law in an early-morning vote on Wednesday. The move intended to pose an aggressive challenge to Roe v. Wade and reignite conservative energy before the midterm elections in November.
Other states, including North Dakota and Arkansas, have passed similarly prohibitive measures restricting abortion and have seen them swiftly voided by the courts as unconstitutional. Supreme Court decisions have given women a right to abortion until a fetus is viable outside the womb, usually around 24 weeks into pregnancy, and some states have enacted bans of abortions after 20 weeks. Both proponents and critics of the Iowa bill said they are girding for another legal battle.
But the Republicans pressing the Iowa legislation are making a decisive turn away from the smaller, more incremental measures of the past that have, in their view, merely chipped away at abortion rights. They have a new, longer-term goal in their sights: reaching a Supreme Court that could shift in composition with a Republican president in the White House, potentially giving the anti-abortion movement a court more sympathetic to its goal of overturning Roe v. Wade than the current court is.
“We at the state legislatures, especially Republican-controlled legislatures, have a responsibility to kind of reload,” said State Senator Rick Bertrand, a Republican from Sioux City. “We need to create vehicles that will allow the Supreme Court possibly to reach back and take this case, and to take up an anti-abortion case.”
Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa, a Republican, has not yet said whether she would sign the bill, though she reiterated through a spokeswoman that she is “100 percent pro-life and will never stop fighting for the unborn.”